The Happiness-Boosting Pose You Need in Your Practice

Feeling discontent, dissatisfied or down? Heart-opening yoga poses, such as Wheel (Upward Bow) Pose, are the perfect Rx.
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Feeling discontent, dissatisfied or down? Heart-opening yoga poses, such as Wheel (Upward Bow) Pose, are the perfect Rx.
Danielle Diamond in Full Wheel, urdhva dhanurasana

Bryant Park Yoga is back in New York City for its 12th season, featuring teachers curated by Yoga Journal. This week's featured instructor is Danielle Diamond, who will return to Bryant Park next month.

An overall feeling of discontent can sometimes stem from depression, lack of confidence, fear, or attachment to wanting life to be different than it is; and heart-opening yoga poses, such as Wheel Pose, are the perfect Rx. They release tight, hunched shoulders and expand our chest so that we can present ourselves from a place of an open heart, ready to fully receive what the universe has to offer us in the present.

Wheel also strengthens your legs, shoulders, and arms, and opens up your thighs and chest. It also energizes you and counteracts anxiety and depression by stimulating the thyroid and pituitary glands.

Although this is considered an intermediate pose, there are many modifications you can take along the way to the full expression, and they’re just as beneficial. So roll out a mat, open up your heart, and breathe your way to contentment.

Also see 1 Pose, 40 Years: Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)

Beginners, Start Here: Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

1. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet placed hip-width apart, palms face down by the hips. Lift your chin up toward the ceiling so that your throat is open.

2. Firmly press your palms and feet into your mat and engage your core and quadriceps to lift the hips without squeezing your butt. Lengthen the tailbone toward the knees.

3. To open your shoulders, clasp the hands underneath the pelvis and press them into mat as you keep your shoulders grounded.

4. Take 5-10 deep breaths here and then lower back down to the mat; let your knees roll in toward one another and press your low back into the mat to release it.

More Experienced? Try Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

Precautions: If you have any neck, back, or wrist issues, this pose may aggravate them, so work in Bridge Pose instead. Avoid this pose if you have heart problems, high or low blood pressure, or are suffering from a headache.

1. Starting in the same position with your knees bent, place your hands next to your head on the mat, with your fingertips facing toward your shoulders.

2. Plug your shoulder blades down your back to open your chest, and reach your tailbone through your knees.

3. Press down all four corners of the feet and palms, then take a deep breath and inhale to the crown of your head while lifting your hips. Barely graze the head on the mat, leaving the weight in your hands and feet. Hug your elbows in toward your head to keep aligned, without letting them fling out to the side as you come up.

4. On an exhale, lift your chest toward the wall you are looking at and straighten your arms as much as you can. Do not squeeze your butt -- use the engagement of your core and your quads to lift you up.

5. Hug your knees in toward the midline so they stay stacked over your ankles, and keep your feet parallel (allowing them to turn outward puts pressure on your sacrum).

6. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then slowly release down back to the mat, vertebra by vertebra, tucking your chin into your chest.

Modifications: You can place a block in between your thighs and squeeze it while lifting to keep your knees in alignment. You can also wrap a strap around your biceps to keep your elbows hugging in toward the midline.

Also seePose of the Week: Wheel Pose (Upward Bow)

Check here for the schedule of upcoming Bryant Park Yoga classes, which take place every Tuesday and Thursday through Sept. 23. Follow the Bryant Park Yoga series at #YJendlessYOGAsummer.